Latvia imposes nationalist restriction on church officials


Interfax-Religiia, 1 July 2019


The Russian Orthodox Church (RPTs) spoke out against a law adopted by the Latvian Sejm [parliament] on a priority basis, according to which the bishops of the Latvian Orthodox Church must be citizens of that country.


"In our country now, the patriarch may be a citizen of any state, and I do not think that the state can have the right to interfere in the internal life of the church and to dictate who can and who cannot become the head of the church, or a bishop, or a rector of a parish," the director of the synod's Department for External Church Relations, Metropolitan Ilarion, said in a broadcast of "Church and World" on the Rossiia 24 television channel.


"For the majority of western countries, this is completely unthinkable; for Latvia it now has become a reality," the metropolitan added.


He thinks that if the parliament in Russia were to adopt a decision that the head of the Orthodox church must be a citizen of the Russian Federation, the secular news media would raise a storm and "would see, completely justifiably, such a decision as interference in the internal affairs of the church."


"By what right can the state dictate to the church who can be its head? But when this happens in Latvia, everybody is silent and the news media do not react to it, and meanwhile there is a very crude intrusion into what is the absolute prerogative of the church. The church is free to select any person as its head," the RPTs hierarch expressed his opinion.


At the same time, Metropolitan Ilarion recalled that during soviet times the charter of the Russian Orthodox Church contained a point according to which only a citizen of the U.S.S.R. could be chosen as patriarch of Moscow. However, he noted, this point was inserted into the church charter at the demand of the soviet atheist state. (tr. by PDS, posted 1 July 2019)

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